The Twelve-Fingered Boy

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Twelve-Fingered Boy Book Poster Image
Exciting, creepy horror adventure tweaks superheroics.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Although containing many fantastic elements, The Twelve-Fingered Boy is rooted in the real world, and the methods Shreve and Jack use to stay ahead of their pursuers seem logical and well thought out. Jacobs' depiction of life inside a juvenile detention center is not especially realistic, but its has sufficient credibility for the purposes on the plot.

Positive Messages

The Twelve-Fingered Boy emphasizes the notion that people have the right to the privacy of their thoughts. Every time Shreve has to look inside someone's mind, he feels a little bit dirty, knowing that what he is doing is unacceptable.

Positive Role Models & Representations

At the start of The Twelve-Fingered Boy, Shreve Cannon is a thief and a liar, but once he becomes Jack's unofficial guardian, he discovers hidden strengths within himself. At the end of the book, however, he chooses to betray his friend, but only because the life of a defenseless little girl is at stake.

Violence

The Twelve-Fingered Boy contains a number of very violent scenes, some of which sensitive readers may find disturbing. Early on, there's a bloody fight between inmates at the juvenile detention center. Other violent episodes include gunfights and an attack by an adult that leaves a teen character gravely injured. Perhaps more disturbing than the physical violence is the mental "rape" that happens when the villains take over the bodies and minds of their victims. The later chapters of the book also deal with the abduction and imprisonment of a young girl by a (presumed) pedophile. Details of her abuse are not given, but the horror of her ordeal is expressed obliquely.

Sex

The Twelve-Fingered Boy does not include much sexual content. Shreve has a girlfriend, but they are apart for most of the book and there is little indication of the physicality of their relationship. A very minor male character is revealed as being blackmailed over his masturbatory interest in men's fitness magazines.

Language

The Twelve-Fingered Boy contains some strong language. It ranges from "titty-baby" (reserved for cry-baby newcomers to juvie) to "damn," "hell," "bitch," and "bastard," although it avoids the most objectionable words.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Shreve's mother is an alcoholic, and The Twelve-Fingered Boy includes a handful of scenes in which she's drunk and belligerent. The book takes a clear stand against alcohol abuse.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Twelve-Fingered Boy is an intense horror adventure with compelling characters that adds a creepy note to the notion of superpowers. It has a number of very violent scenes, some of which sensitive readers may find disturbing (a bloody fight between inmates at a juvenile detention center, a gunfight, a stabbing, in which a teen character is gravely injured, an adbuction and imprisonment of a girl by a presumed pedophile). Perhaps more disturbing than the physical violence is the mental "rape" that happens when the villains take over the bodies and minds of their victims. There's little sexual content, and objectionable language generally ranges from "titty-baby" to "damn," "hell," "bitch," and "bastard."

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What's the story?

At the start of THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY, Shreve Cannon wants only to finish his term at the juvenile detention center. But after he's chosen to be the unofficial guardian of Jack, a seemingly weak and shut-down new inmate, Shreve vows to do whatever it takes to protect the younger boy. Together they face off against the mysterious Mr. Quincrux, who has the ability to enter minds and control people from the inside. Shreve and Jack decide they must to escape the center, and their journey toward freedom will take them through some increasingly dark and scary territory.

Is it any good?

The Twelve-Fingered Boy is gripping from start to finish, an intense horror/action story that finds new juice in familiar situations. The book has echoes of The Matrix, X-Men and the novels of Stephen King, but author John Hornor Jacobs makes sure those influences don't overwhelm his own voice. Shreve and Jack are very compelling characters, and Jacobs ends the novel in such a way that readers will be anxious to get their hands on the saga's next installment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why superheroes so enduring in pop culture. What characteristics do they have that appeal to such a wide audience?

  • Do people have an unalienable right to privacy? How far should governments be allowed to investigate the private thoughts and personal beliefs of their citizens?

  • What methods do institutions like juvenile detention centers use to control the behavior of their inmates? Are these methods ever abused by those in authority?

Book details

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